The magnificent wheeled machines of the Petersen Automotive Museum (pictures)

This newly refurbished LA museum is a Mecca for auto addicts. CNET takes a tour.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
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The grand entrance to the Petersen is far more impressive than the old, not least for the Bugatti, Rolls, Ferrari and Dodge Tomahawk. These are just a taste of what's to come.

For the full story behind the tour, check out Bond, Bentleys and more: Take a tour of the new Petersen Automotive Museum.

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This Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse "KPM Series" greets you as you enter. This is one of only four ever made.

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Round-door Rolls

This 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I is even rarer than the Bugatti: only one, this one right here, was ever built. The unique round-door coachwork was added in 1934.

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This gorgeous 1956 Ferrari 250GT Berlinetta has bodywork by Zagato. It's one of five ever made.

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Third floor

The recommended path for the tour is to take the elevator up to the third floor and work your way down. This floor is labeled "History" and has everything from movie cars to one-off designs from the 1950s.

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McQueen's baby

It's a little odd-looking in photos, but beautiful in person. This is Steve McQueen's personal 1956 Jaguar XKSS. Apparently in the first year he owned it, he nearly got his license revoked. Twice.

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Boxy curves

This 1947 Cisitalia 202 Coupe may look boxy, but its Pinin Farina-designed body was radical in its day.

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Movie stars

Not surprising given its proximity to Hollywood, the Petersen has a number of movie cars. The 1951 Chrysler on the left was one of two built for Howard Hughes and RKO studios. Next to that, the Volkswagen Bus from "Little Miss Sunshine." Peeking out behind that, the 1965 Lincoln Continental used in "Entourage."

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I'm Batman

Yep, one of the Batmobiles from the third-best Batman movie. To its left, one of the Bond cars from "Spectre," then one from "Die Another Day." The Pontiac Aztec was Walter White's in "Breaking Bad."

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The Batcycle, otherwise known as a much-modified 1966 Yamaha YDS-3.

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Terminator camera bike

This is how James Cameron shot that epic chase scene at the beginning of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

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'50s and '60s classics

Volkswagen Bus-as-pickup, with a classic '56 Chevrolet Bel Air behind.

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This 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37 concept was built to show off new Chevy features such as its Turbo-Fire V-8, panoramic windshield and more. To me, it looks kinda buck-toothed.

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Seriously, no one looked at this and thought, "Well, that looks goofy"?

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Second floor

The second floor focuses on "Industry." It has design studios, including an area for kids to learn about all aspects of cars (including, as you'll see, "Cars").

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Pantera redux

This Pantera was heavily worked over by Ringbrothers and Nike's Innovation Skunkworks Design. It won Best in Show at the 2011 SEMA auto show.

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Fisker and design

Behind the sadly defunct (but maybe not for long?) Fisker Karma is one of the design studios on this level, showing how cars go from drawing to clay model and beyond.

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Mini gullwing?

In this ArtCenter College of Design project, the students designed a compact Mini, featuring gullwings.

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In pieces

This clever display breaks a car (a Maserati) down into its various components, including chassis, drivetrain, interior and so on. On the right is the upcoming Ford GT, on loan.

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Fords to win

On the left, the legendary Ford GT40. On the right, the upcoming GT. One won at Le Mans, the other will try.

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Alternative power

A mix of alt-power vehicles from the ages, including the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX Clarity on the right and Toyota Mirai in the middle. On the far left, an early hybrid from 1914 called the Galt.

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Cooking with gas

Not the most practical, this Fiat 508C Balilla ran on compressed natural gas because of shortages of gasoline in the lead up to WWII.

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Riders and racers

This section features a mix of race cars and show cars. The coral blue Mercury on the left was customized by the late George Barris.

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Hot rods and tuners

The Ford Roadster on the right was built in 1997 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hot Rod magazine. The white car is a 1953 Hansen Cobra with a fiberglass body and an Olds Rocket 88 motor.

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Purple deluxe

This 1964 Chevrolet Impala lowrider won "Outstanding Use of Color Design" at the 2011 Grand National Roadster Show. As an added bonus, it's powered by a chrome-plated Chevrolet Corvette engine.

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Coming or going?

The front end of this Mercedes-Benz W196 looks like the back end of a Porsche 550. Both Juan Manuel Fangio and Sir Sterling Moss won many races in the 1960s.

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Racing Ferrari

The winningest Ferrari ever. Here's the story (and the sound).

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Speed Racer Corvette?

This Corvette XP-87 Stingray Racer show car looks like a cross between a Corvette and Speed Racer's Mach 5.

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More than 20 years old, and still looking fast and new. The McLaren F1 is the grandaddy of all modern supercars.

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This 1938 Dubonnet Xenia was commissioned by Andre Dubonnet and built on a Hispano-Suiza H6 chassis to show off a suspension system he'd designed.

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A supersonic Fiat

Like all Italian automakers, Fiat has made its fair share of beautiful cars, but something like this probably isn't what most people think of when they hear the Fiat name. The 8V Supersonic was designed by Ghia.

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Double-0 who?

This car looks familiar, but I just can't place it. Owned by, was it David Somerset? Peter Franks? James St. John Smythe?

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Still incredible

That Jim Bob No. 7 sure has a lovely ride.

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Motocycles on parade

This cool display shows the evolution of motorcycles, from barely-more-than-a-bike on the left, to the high-horsepower and triple-digit speeds of the modern superbike.

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2, 4, 6, 8

A display showcasing multiple cylinder counts. Apparently they don't like odd numbers. I can think of several one- and three-cylinder motorcycles, and at least one interesting five-.

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Count 'em

Four pipes on this side, four on the other. Yep, it sure is a V-8 motorcycle. The 1994 Morbidelli had a 0.85-liter V-8 and a body by Pininfarina. It would cost nearly $100,000 in today's money. Only four prototypes were made.

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A series of Porsche racers. I had many of these as RC toys growing up. From left to right, 1980 935 K3 Sachs, 1969 917K Gulf Wyer (one of the most amazing race cars ever), 1980 936/80 Martini and 1986 962 Rothmans.

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I tried to talk to him, but he just looked the other way and ignored me. Celebrities, ugh.

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Ground floor

The ground floor is dedicated to "Artistry," and features mostly cars from the '20s and '30s. In center, a Bentley 4 1/4 Liter Embiricos with a body by Pourtout.

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Off in the corner, this elegant 1936 Astura Cabriolet was designed by Pinin Farina.

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Type 57C

One of two Bugatti 57Cs at the Petersen, this Atalante was styled by Jean Bugatti, Ettore's son.

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Curves on curves

It's a myth that all cars from the '20s and '30s wore drab colors. The red 1939 Delahaye Type 165 in the foreground is quite a counterpoint to the less flashy but still lovely 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahnkurier.

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On display

Brightened here so you can see the cars better, this curving projection wall added motion to the static displays of the cars beneath. The one in front is a 1938 Graham Model 97 Cabriolet. Though you may have never heard of Graham Motors, it eventually left automobile manufacturing and became the Madison Square Garden Corporation.

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Far better-looking than many modern Peugeots, the 302 DS Darl'mat Cabriolet was one of the many models modified, as the name suggests, by Darl'mat.

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Bugatti in blue (and white)

This 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Aravis had bodywork by Gangloff, which apparently Jean himself said is the most beautiful Type 57.

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3.0 CSL

One of my favorite BMWs, not least because I had an RC car of it growing up. This one was painted by Alexander Calder and became BMW's first Art Car.

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This one hurts. I love the Art Car concept, but...only 1,510 850CSi coupes were ever made! The artist, David Hockney, wanted to make what was inside the car "outwardly visible."

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Not an art car

South African artist Robin Rhode used this BMW Z4 as a brush on a huge canvas. The result is the coolest paint job I think I've ever seen on a car.

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Bond Defender

No spoilers? I haven't seen "Spectre" yet. This Land Rover Defender 110 was modified for and used in the film.

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Finish line

Back to the lobby and soon to home. The massive screen features an Instagram showcase for people who tag the museum in images, and video clips with celebrities talking about their favorite cars. My favorite touch: the four clocks you see above the screen, with the local time and the time in Daytona, Suzuka and my personal favorite, Le Mans, home of the greatest auto race in the world.

In short, the museum is definitely worth a trip for any car fan. Check out Petersen.org for more info.

For the full story behind the tour, read Bond, Bentleys and more: Take a tour of the new Petersen Automotive Museum.

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2018 update!

Like most museums, the Petersen regularly changes their exhibits. We revisited to check out the Porsche Effect, but while we were checking out those German lovelies, we also checked out some of the beautiful red Ferraris that are currently upstairs. This, for example, is an 857 Sport. It was imported to LA in 1956, and is the only 857 with a fin.

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The pretty-much-perfect 1961 250 GT California. 3-liter V12, 280 horsepower.

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Le Mans

This isn't just any 250 LM, this is the one that won the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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The timeless beauty of the 250 GTO.

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